Those who have been reading my blog for awhile have heard me talk about my very elderly neighbors, Dov and Hannah. Dov and his wife are Holocaust survivors and, when I first moved to this apartment, I discovered that Hannah had for several years not really been able to leave their apartment due to illness. Dov seemed quite spry and, indeed, served as the "vad bayit" --or caretaker of our apartment building. But in early January Dov's health took a bad turn for the worse. He was in and out of hospital and then he fell and broke his hip. That really was where things went downhill for him as far as his health and he became an absolute shell of the man I first met with the wide and kind smile and generous spirit. This was the elderly couple that I was tasked with getting to the bomb shelter (otherwise known as our basement) during the early part of the war and was extremely worried about this as they, well, they can barely walk at all. Just two weeks into the war, however, they went into an assisted living facility for the elderly.
I posted awhile back about how kind they were when they discovered that I had taken in Matan. Dov brought me into their apartment and gave me many kitty supplies that they had there (a litter box, flea spray, and some toys) and I spent nearly 3 hours with them looking through their photo albums of their precious cat who, after being with them for 23 years died two summers ago. They have no children and the loss was obviously devastating for them. In the meantime Dov had adopted another stray cat, a beautiful, fluffy girl kitty that he called Mitzi. He fed her just outside the entrance and spent hours sitting on a chair in front of our building with Mitzi in his lap. He once said ruefully that he wished he could take her into the apartment but that it would not be fair to her because she would far outlive he and his wife. I would often come home and see the two of them together, Mitzi sitting on his lap and Dov stroking her fluffy little back.
He fed only Mitzi because, as he noted sadly, they couldn't afford to feed them all and Mitzi, well, she had won his heart. It was plain to see that he had won hers as well. And she was fat, sassy and fluffy compared to the other strays in the area. She always came up to me for a good pet and got an extra feeding when I fed the others who were not as lucky to be as loved as she. I always knew when Dov was in the hospital again because there would be the inevitable little note, "could you please take care of Dov's Mitzi" stuck to my door. And of course I did.
When Dov and Hannah moved away I didn't really think about Mitzi. There was a war on and I was, of course, still feeding the outside cats but Mitzi wasn't among them. Because I didn't see her among the usual crowd, I assumed that Dov had managed to make arrangements for Mitzi. And maybe he did.
Early this evening as I was walking down to my little cafe to continue working with the hopes that a new environment would give me renewed energy, I heard a little piteous meow. The kind that stop you in your tracks. A little cat, thin to the point of emaciation and limping badly, came out from behind the gate at the synagogue and came up to me where I had stopped and then wound around my legs. It began to purr but it was completely unrecognizable. I feed all the cats in a two block radius and I'd never seen this one before, certainly not one that comes up...or had I?
"Mitzi?" I said aloud, sure that I was wrong. But no, on closer inspection I was absolutely sure that it was, indeed, a Mitzi changed almost beyond recognition. The long fluffy furr was matted and filthy. She was so very thin and gaunt. Two toes were missing from her back leg that was coated with blood. But this was Mitzi. There was no doubt that this was Mitzi.
I hesitated only a moment and then left her there on the street. I retraced my steps to my apartment, gathered some food and a cat carrier and went back again. She had retreated behind the gate again but when I approached she hobbled forward. I put the food in the carrier and in she went like she did this everyday. Shut the door and round the corner to the vet I sped because she was not liking being in the carrier one bit.
Mitzi is at the vet's tonight. She is on an IV drip because she was horribly dehydrated, her injured foot has been bathed and bandaged, she is anemic and was given vitamins, she has had a test for FIV and FLV (feline aids and feline leukemia). In the morning she will be spayed and have all of her shots. In the evening I will collect her and bring her home if she is free of the two above diseases. I will try to find a permanent home for her but if not then she will stay in my menagerie. For her sake, and for Dov's.